Buckeyes and Hoosiers

In Tours by Richard Norton Smith

May 25, 2023 - June 1, 2023

Buckeyes and Hoosiers

Eight Days in Gilded Age America

Starting at $3,995

About Buckeyes and Hoosiers Tour

No one’s ever said it better than Harry Truman: “The only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.” Americans have long neglected the history of the Gilded Age, that post-Civil War adolescence when a divided land gradually coalesced around railroads and robber barons, exploding industries and wartime promises tragically deferred, massive immigration and festering inequalities. And, oh yes – some of the most colorful, contentious, and occasionally corrupt, politics and politicians in our history. It’s an incredibly rich pageant, one that will serve as the backdrop for our travel back to the origins of today’s America. Situated in the heart of downtown Columbus, the Renaissance Hotel is our historical base camp for the entire tour. More presidents. Less packing.

Beginning the last week of May, we’ll visit sites associated with eight (mostly Gilded Age) presidents in Ohio and Indiana. Not to mention a host of historically significant women, from Lucy Hayes and Lucretia Garfield, to Florence “the Duchess” Harding, Nellie Taft and Ida McKinley. Such an itinerary allows for more in depth – dare I say, leisurely – exploration of the surprising McKinley era, the boyhood homes of Ulysses Grant and William Howard Taft, and the decidedly immodest post presidential estates of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, and Indiana’s favorite son Benjamin Harrison. In Marion, Ohio we’ll tour the brand new Harding Presidential Library and Museum, as well as the newly restored Harding home as it appeared on Election Night, 1920. In fact, a majority of the 20 attractions we’ll visit are either themselves new to us, or places completely renovated/reimagined since any earlier travels.

Tour Itinerary

Columbus, OH

We meet as a group this morning in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel, situated in the heart of downtown Columbus. Our first stop today is the Ohio History Center, with extensive exhibits tracing the state’s origins from the Ice Age to the present. The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America described the center as "the finest museum in America devoted to pre-European history." Next, we’ll explore bucolic Ohio Village, a living history museum providing a firsthand view of middle American life during and after the American Civil War. After lunch, we’ll visit the impressive Ohio State Capitol, from whose steps Governor William McKinley daily waved to his invalid wife across the street in the Neil House Hotel. A memorable Welcome Dinner is planned.

Tour Includes

  • Admission fees to all historic sites, attractions and museums listed on the itinerary included.
  • All taxes and gratuities included for all group functions, including meals, guides, bellmen, and motor coach driver.
  • Deluxe Accommodations: Renaissance Downtown Columbus (May 25 – June 1, 2023)
  • Deluxe transportation via climate controlled motor coach, featuring on-board restroom, individual 110-volt power supply access (for cell phones, DVD players, iPads or lap tops), as well as Wi-Fi (wireless internet) throughout the coach.
  • Meals: Tour includes seven (7) breakfasts, seven (7) lunches, and six (6) dinners.
  • Please Note: there will be a fair amount of walking involved on this tour.

Meet Your Host


Richard Norton Smith is a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and a familiar face to viewers of C-SPAN, as well as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Following graduation from Harvard in 1975, he worked as a White House intern and a speech writer for Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke. In 1979 he went to work for Senator Bob Dole, with whom he collaborated on several volumes of autobiography and political humor.

Smith’s first major book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. He has also written An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986), Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993), The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, which received the prestigious Goldsmith Prize awarded by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and has been described by Hilton Kramer as “the best book ever written about the press.” In October 2014 Random House published On His Own Terms, a monumental life of Nelson Rockefeller described by Douglas Brinkley as “one of the greatest cradle to grave biographies written in the past 50 years,” and tagged in advance by Amazon as one of the fall’s Twenty Big Books in Biography and Memoir.

Between 1987 and 2001, Mr. Smith served as Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs in Simi Valley, California; the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan respectively.

In December, 2001 Mr. Smith became director of the new Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. There he supervised construction of the Institute’s $11.3 million permanent home and launched a Presidential Lecture Series and other high profile programs. In October, 2003 he was appointed the first Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a four building complex in Springfield, Illinois. The Library opened to the public in 2004 and the Museum opened the next year.

Much in demand as a speaker, in 2009 Smith was invited by Congress to be one of two historians addressing it on the two hundred anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Earlier, millions of television viewers heard him deliver the final eulogy at Gerald Ford’s Michigan funeral, a role he repeated at Betty Ford’s request when she was laid to rest beside her husband in 2011. Smith is currently at work on a biography of President Ford. Twice a year he personally leads historical tours (www.presidentsandpatriots.com) emphasizing American presidents and history rarely found in the text books.

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